When Chad McCoury opened his business, J. Gumbo’s Gay Street, in July 2009 , there seemed to be a desire for a group that brought the surrounding neighborhood together.
When the city of Columbus proposed meter rate increases in January 2010, many of the businesses there banded together and shared their concerns about the increases and the impact they could have. When the city took their concerns into consideration, they realized they had a strong collective voice, and what is now the Gay Street Collaborative began to take shape.
McCoury spent the remainder of the winter, as well as Spring 2010, walking the district to gather feedback from Gay Street’s business owners and managers, and gauge true interest in a neighborhood group. The process was very valuable for him.
“I met some amazing business owners who pour their heart and souls into their businesses,” he says. “Some have been around for a really long time. At that time, I knew that if anything, we needed to be more neighborly with each other. We needed to know our neighbors, those who are investing their businesses and livelihoods right in our own area.”
In Fall 2010, those business owners met socially, just to get to know each other. Afterward, they continued to enlist members and in March 2011, with the help of Melissa Fast at Capital Crossroads Special Improvement District, the Collaborative held its first official meeting to outline what the group wanted to be exactly. Nearly 30 businesses participated.
“We continued to meet every month or so sharing information, letting folks know about upcoming events, collaborating on projects and moving our purpose forward,” McCoury says.
Then this spring, “several businesses had issues with some city departments,” he adds, heightening the desire to formalize the Gay Street Collaborative as an official non-profit entity.
In the following interview with McCoury, he discusses the Collaborative’s purpose, who serves on its startup board, and what kinds of projects it will be launching in the near future.
The Metropreneur: What is the Collaborative’s mission?
Chad McCoury: The mission is still in formation as we’re currently developing our bylaws with our board and members. However, our current purpose is to collectively enhance the Gay Street District by building upon what we, as businesses, are already doing on an organic, day-to-day basis. We do this through neighborhood aesthetic enhancements, promotions, events, advocacy, and so on.
For example, collectively coming together to have conversations with the city about code changes around parking meter issues, outdoor dining permitted areas, and valet parking. We’re also excited about some promotional and enhancement projects soon to launch, so stayed tuned for more information!
[M]: How many businesses are members of the Collaborative?
CM: We currently have nearly 50 members, which consist of businesses and partnering organizations. Many of these businesses and organizations have been very active and participatory, and we’re excited about our potential. We’re also thrilled by the diversity of our group; it’s not just street-level merchants. I think the diversity of our members is one of our true strengths. All of these folks are willing to bring their unique talents and offerings to the table, which has been very useful in our formation.
[M]: How many leadership roles are there within the Collaborative and what are they?
CM: Our startup board consists of three positions. I serve as president, while Walker Evans of ColumbusUnderground.com serves as secretary, and Jeff Mathes of Due Amici and Barrio serves as treasurer. With the guidance of a consultant, we decided to engage a small board to start laying out the legal framework of the group. This includes all of our business filings, developing bylaws, and other startup activities. Once this is done, we’ll be filling in the rest of the board.
[M]: Why did the Collaborative file for the 501(c)(6) designation?
CM: We formed as a legal non-profit for several reasons. Mainly because of the enhancement projects that we’ll soon be launching. We needed to establish a bank account, as well as invoice sponsors for the underwriting of projects, so we need to legally formalize our group. It also helps us bring ourselves together as a credible organization. It also allows us to apply for grants, matching funds and other such opportunities as a legally formed non-profit.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
CM: We’re very excited about the continued growth within the Gay Street District. We’ve got several things planned from the river to Columbus College of Art & Design, and we’re very excited about our plans and potential. Gay Street plays host to some of the greatest businesses and creative talent that we have in Columbus, many of whom may not be seen from the street level. Giving exposure to these folks and their businesses is important to us. Recruiting and retaining that creative class to live, work and play, especially those currently at CCAD, is important to our growth and longevity.
Photo by Lance Robotson via Flickr